Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fast food race in China: Subway v. McDonalds

As this March 8th Reuters article explains, fast food giant Subway, which currently has only 150 outlets in China compared to McDonald's 2,000, aims to catch up to the golden arches within 10 years. And why not, with a population of 1.3 billion, China's a potential goldmine for sub sales.

"Our biggest challenge is getting customers to try the product," Subway President Fred DeLuca said, adding that they were considering lowering prices to attract more customers.

Yeah, that can be annoying, when people in foreign lands don't understand your bastardized version of food. But the submarine research brain trust is on the job. The company is
testing sandwiches such as Beijing roast duck and local sauces like "hot spicy Szechuan sauce." Guess that makes it local.

Also, and without a hint of irony, DeLuca figures that Subway's emphasis on "fresh eating and lots of vegetables" will help the chain grow as Chinese diners look for healthier options (compared to McDonald's?), with the country becoming aware of obesity. "People are starting to understand there is a bit of a problem. This may match up with our growth trajectory and put us in a position where we can grow quite fast," he said.

So let me get this straight: China had no obesity problem before Western-style fast food and a meat-centered diet was introduced (see T. Colin Campbell's excellent book, The China Study) and now, it's American fast food to the rescue? Oh right, that's the company's solution here at home too.


Janet Camp said...

I love your work, Ms. Simon, and have read your book at least twice. I recommend it every time I get the chance. On the matter of Campbell's "China Study", however, I must tell you that there is a lot wrong with his work. I will get some references and repost. I am not arguing with the idea that cultures tend to obesity once they swap their veg oriented diets for meat-centered diets, just saying that Campbell's work is much criticized by reputable science.

Anonymous said...

Chinese diets are high in soy and genistein. The Chinese might have an obesity problem if they get rid of the soy diet. Genistein and high folates diet have proven to prevent the amplfication of obesity across generations in Agouti mice. BpA is another possible cause of obesity's explosion but given the fact 99% of Americans have BpA in their bodies the epidemiology is impossible until you get rid of it from canned food.